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Minn. video of prone suspect's death causes clash

Officer Timothy Callahan is being accused of editing footage from his personal pen camera that recorded an encounter with police that turned deadly

By PoliceOne Staff

MINNEAPOLIS — A lawsuit filed against an officer following a man's death shortly after an encounter with police has lawyers on both sides sparring over whether he withheld key video evidence.

Lawyer Robert Bennett, who represents the family of David Smith, 29, and has asked the city to turn over a personal pen camera and a home computer belonging to Officer Timothy Callahan that contains footage of the death, The Star Tribune reported. Bennett said he held the video for six days and may have edited it.

Smith died in 2009 at a downtown YMCA, where officers were called to respond to a mentally ill man acting disruptively. During the incident, officers Timothy Callahan and Timothy Gorman deployed a TASER on Smith in order to gain compliance.

In the video recorded by the pen camera, Smith is struck and falls to the floor, where he is held prone. Medics briefly revived him, but he was later declared dead, the newspaper said.

The death was ruled a homicide when a Hennepin County medical examiner said that by kneeling on him, officers caused cardiopulmonary arrest due to asphyxia. Bennett claimed officers violated department policy by holding Smith prone without monitoring his breathing, according to the article.

But tragedy can strike even when officers act appropriately, Police Chief Tim Dolan said in February when the suit was filed. 

Defending Callahan, City Attorney Tracey Fussy said his tape is consistent with that from a TASER-mounted camera and an independent security camera.

Callahan held the video until he could consult with a lawyer, as advised by the Minneapolis Police Federation, Fussy said.

The case goes to trial next year.

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